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Devin: What do you see as your superpower?
Richard: If you asked the people around me, my superpower is, at its core, my competitiveness.
Prominent money manager Richard H. Lawrence’s new book Carbon Done Correctly officially comes out today. The book features the history of his clean cookstove project, which started in Honduras in the late 1990s.
Working with his daughter and a local team, they launched the project after volunteering for several years in the area following the devastating hurricane. While volunteering, they were perplexed by the number of people needing treatment for breathing problems. His daughter was the one who determined that the problem was cookstoves that vented smoke in the homes.
Working with locals, they designed, built and installed 29 stoves. Struggling to fund further development of the project, Richard stumbled upon the growing voluntary carbon credit market. He learned that he could generate cash there to fund the project. Four years later, they successfully qualified for Gold Standard certification, enabling the sale of carbon credits.
Today, Richard’s Proyecto Mirador has sold 310,000 stoves in Honduras and Guatemala with help from carbon credits.
Carbon credits have become controversial in recent years. Seen favorably as a potential solution to climate change early on, some climate activists have become skeptical.
“There's blame on both sides, I think,” Richard says, reacting to the critics. “Over the last ten years, 12 years, a lot of new methodologies were developed, and those methodologies were not strong enough. That resulted in an overcrediting of emission savings. Quite rightly, those developers are subjected to criticism.”
“On the other side of the coin, the critics tend to throw the baby out with the bath water,” he says. “So, they'll find a cookstove project that they believe has over credited, and then they'll pass that all cookstoves over credited.”
The truth is that many good carbon projects both reduce carbon emissions and improve lives with better health and economic well-being.
Richard credits his superpower, a competitive nature, with driving his impact.
AI Episode Summary
1. **Introduction**: Devin Thorpe introduces Richard Lawrence as the guest on the "Superpowers for Good" show. Richard is an author, philanthropist, fund manager, nonprofit founder, and the writer of the newly published book Carbon Done Correctly.
2. **Carbon Done Correctly**: The book tells the story of Richard's life over the last 20 years, focusing on his efforts in environmental and social work, particularly highlighting a transformative experience during a medical mission in Honduras.
3. **Family Trip to Honduras**: Richard's initial involvement in social work began as a concern for his children growing up in a hedonistic society, leading to a family trip to Honduras to participate in medical missions, which revealed health issues linked to inadequate cookstoves.
4. **Discovery of Health Issues and Cookstove Solution**: During the Honduras mission, they observed a pattern of respiratory illnesses in women and children, which Richard's daughter linked to smoke from indoor cookstoves. This became the impetus for Richard's work in designing and implementing better cookstoves.
5. **Funding Stove Projects**: Richard learned about the carbon market and its potential to raise funds through gold-standard-certified carbon credits. Realizing the power of this mechanism, he decided to use it to finance the building of improved cookstoves.
6. **Challenges in Cookstove Implementation**: Acquiring gold standard certification and selling carbon credits took four years. To ensure the initiative's success, the project emphasized holistic improvements in stove design, education, supervision, and monitoring.
7. **Cookstove Project Expansion**: The cookstove project expanded significantly, leading to the construction of over 310,000 stoves in Honduras and Guatemala, employing 250 people, and proving the efficacy of using carbon markets for funding.
8. **Response to Carbon Credit Criticism**: Richard acknowledges criticism of carbon credits, admitting some issues relate to flaws in methodology and over-crediting. He emphasizes the ongoing work to improve standards and ensure carbon credits effectively contribute to fighting climate change.
9. **Social Justice Aspect of Carbon Credits**: Devin mentions, and Richard agrees, that carbon credits represent a means to transfer capital from wealthier nations to places with less capital where climate mitigation strategies can be implemented more cost-effectively.
10. **Superpower – Competitiveness**: When asked about his superpower, Richard cites his competitiveness and determination as critical to his success. He shares a story where this trait helped solve a significant problem in the cookstove initiative, leading to a simple but impactful innovation. Richard also advises us to keep moving forward, not dwelling on mistakes and emphasizes the importance of teamwork.
How to Develop Competitiveness As a Superpower
Richard shares a story to illustrate how his competitive nature enabled impact. Many cookstove projects struggle with adoption and utilization. Installing a stove the family doesn’t use doesn’t help.
In the early days, when Richard visited the project in Honduras, he too often found problems like that. In the field with the project COO, Professor Elder Mendoza, the two were angry about the adoption problems.
Elder identified the problem–a simple maintenance issue prevented the stoves from working correctly. The solution was a $1 wand they called a “cinco” that the residents could use to keep the stoves operating perfectly. Now, 300,000 stoves later, the solution has proved its worth.
Richard suggests a philosophy to develop and strengthen your competitiveness. “Just don’t give up.”
“Keep looking forward,” he adds. “Don’t look back; don’t waste time on your mistakes. Just keep moving forward.”
By following Richard’s example and counsel, you can strengthen your competitiveness. With practice, you could make it a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.
Remember, however, that research into success suggests that building on your own superpowers is more important than creating new ones or overcoming weaknesses. You do you!
Richard H. Lawrence, Jr. (he/him):
Climate Activist and Author of Carbon Done Correctly: A Model for Climate Mitigation from the Global South to Wall Street
Biographical Information: Richard H. Lawrence, Jr., is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Overlook Investments Group, which he established in 1991. Overlook is an independent fund management company that invests in a concentrated portfolio of public equities throughout Asia, excluding Japan.
Richard is a director and co-founder of several non-profit organizations with specific focus on climate change mitigation. In 2004, Richard and his wife, Dee, founded Proyecto Mirador Foundation, a non-profit that has built over 330,000 fuel-efficient stoves in rural communities across Honduras and Guatemala. In 2016, the Lawrences founded Cool Effect, a non-profit online platform that enables individuals and Fortune 500 companies to offset their carbon emissions through the purchase of carbon credits from high-integrity carbon reduction projects worldwide. In 2017, they established High Tide Foundation, a non-profit organization involved in climate change mitigation.
Richard is Chairman of the non-profit Carbon Mapper, which deploys satellite technology to pinpoint and track point source emissions, particularly methane. In 2021, he helped establish Global Methane Hub with over $225 million in philanthropic funds to support methane advocacy and mitigation.
Richard currently lives in San Francisco, California, with his wife and two adult children. His first published book, The Model: 37 Years Investing in Asian Equities, was released in 2021. Richard is also a member of the Board of Directors of The National Audubon Society.
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